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Low-Maintenance Houseplants: Oxalis Triangularis

Low-Maintenance Houseplants: Oxalis Triangularis

If you don’t possess the greenest of thumbs, don’t worry! There are plenty of low-maintenance houseplants that thrive with just minimal care, and we’re happy to highlight some of them for you.

First up is the oxalis triangularis. The oxalis family is large and varied, including some rampantly invasive varieties than have given oxalis a bad rep as “garden thugs,” but don’t be too quick to judge all varieties by the bad behavior of a few relatives! Many oxalis varieties are entirely well-behaved and a delightful addition to your home and garden. With varieties hardy in all climates in the United States, there are two that are also good choices for growing indoors as long-lived houseplants – oxalis triangularis and regnelli. Though both are hardy outdoors in zones 6-11, they adapt well to indoor conditions and thrive indoors year round.  With its fanciful and intriguing purple foliage, let’s take a closer look at oxalis triangularis.

Oxalis Triangularis

Oxalis Triangularis Origins

Oxalis triangularis are often referred to as “purple shamrocks.” The plant’s history can be traced back to St. Patrick, who held a similar plant and used the three leaves to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the Irish. Oxalis triangularis are not Irish natives, however – instead, they hail from Brazil.

Special Traits

Oxalis triangularis are highly “photophilic,” which means that they open and close not just their blooms, but also their leaves in response to light. At night, neatly folded, oxalis triangularis looks like a cluster of little purple butterflies that then open wide to the morning light. Both the vivid purple color of its leaves and this constant slow motion seems to enchant all who grow it – even “non-gardeners” fall in love this charming beauty. To capitalize on its unusual coloring, containers in silver or chartreuse are especially effective.

Incredibly long lived, oxalis triangularis often become "heirloom plants" passed down from generation to generation within a family. We often hear customers’ stories of the plants becoming a cherished family tradition. One customer told us she was enjoying the same bulbs as their great, great-grandmother who harvested them as a child 107 years ago! Since oxalis triangularis are super simple to plant and grow, they are frequently given as gifts. Choose one of our many pre-planted oxalis gifts, or take it easy on your wallet and make a nice gift by planting four triangularis in an empty soup can with the label removed. Once these are growing, the look is wonderful between the metallic can and deep purple foliage! Let the gift recipient know that these plants have the potential to become treasured, living family heirlooms that will last for generations with little care.

Oxalis Triangularis Gift

Be aware that oxalis triangularis has developed a natural toxicity to protect it from foraging animals. This is a plant that bites back, so take care with pets and small animals.

Basic Care

Oxalis triangularis bulbs look like small, immature pinecones. When planting a container for indoors, go ahead and crowd your bulbs, spacing them just an inch apart for a full look fast. Just poke the bulbs into the soil – any way up is right. Water lightly just once every couple of weeks until new growth appears. In about 6 weeks from planting, your new purple shamrocks will begin to appear, and will fill in to become lush and full soon after. Weekly watering should be light. Too much water will send the plant back into dormancy.

Indoors, keep your oxalis triangularis in a sunny spot. You will find the deep purple foliage really brings out the vibrant green of other plants, and the color contrast makes your other houseplants seem to glow with health.

Please note that oxalis triangularis occasionally go dormant, looking like the entire plant has died. Because this happens generally during the summer every 2-7 years when the plant is indoors, it seems like a serious problem rather than a periodic event. There is no need to toss your beloved triangularis! Simply stop watering and let the soil thoroughly dry. Set the plant aside where it is no longer center stage, but where you will still see it. In a few weeks, you will see a new leaf emerge. That is the time to resume watering. Soon, your purple shamrocks will be lush and full again.

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Oxalis Triangularis Purple Shamrock

Grow oxalis triangularis for a long-lived, easy care houseplant with extra charm. Enjoy your purple shamrocks!

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  • Katie Elzer-Peters
Comments 31
  • Adele Simons
    Adele Simons

    I have both the purple and the green ones. Is it the same care for both? Also they have not flowered for awhile.

  • Barbara

    I have a beautiful purple triangularis plant. Recently however the leaves look slightly crinkled and paler in colour. There also seem to be some very small bugs around the few visible bulbs near the surface of the soil. Am I watering too much? I drizzle a little water on the soil every other day. From the posts above, that’s perhaps too much, although the soil never looks too wet. Any tips, most welcome.

  • Anna Kalin
    Anna Kalin

    I have an oxalis Trangularis and wondered when can I repot it. It is in a small pot and it looks that the plant is overcrowded. All the big purple leaves and be died and it currently has tiny leaves as if it’s only a few months old.
    Many thanks
    Anna form Bristol UK

  • Christina LAWRENCE
    Christina LAWRENCE

    I live in Maidens Virginia, zone 6b. I have mine outside in my back yard in front of my flower bed for several years now. They are wonderful and have seeded in several new spots. After seeing this blog, I will be digging a few and try in a pot for my sun room.

  • evelyn WYMAN
    evelyn WYMAN

    How do you harvest the cones for propagation? Is it time to do that now that the plant is dormant?

  • evelyn WYMAN
    evelyn WYMAN

    I have had my wonderful purple plant for 30+ years and now in May it has gone dormant for the first time. Is that what it is doing? Should I take it to a shady place on my patio? I have been taking it outdoors every May to October.


    Hello, I for some reason have battled with my plant. It was a gift and I was told it liked to be watered a lot, I tried to keep it moist but it died. I live in PR and I don’t know if that’s a factor now it was coming back and my husband got water happy and once again killed it. So now everyone is forbidden to touch my plant.. lol… I let it dry and started to water it little by little to see if something happens with it. Now I have another one and that one seems to be going doumit I thought great it died also but new ones are coming in..

  • lee slocum
    lee slocum

    why are mine getting so tall and scraggely – both the green and purple?

  • Shahnaz

    Hi I recently bought oxalis but can I change the pot
    they told me not to I keep it in very light patio and once a week water
    Please advise me if I can

  • bob

    some sites say “full sun” best for maintenance. Other sites say light shade.. Who can you believe???

  • Peanuts

    I have had NO luck! I had outside and it died. Now I have one inside and it is droopy. What could I possibly be doing wrong? Thanks

  • Julia rea
    Julia rea

    I brought my oxalis, thriving, blooming in hot sun, inside to 68^ and now it’s all wilted, dying bit by bit. Mideast Ill. Please help. Thanks!

  • Julie Rea
    Julie Rea

    My oxalis is droopy with daily dying petals. Should I report to smaller pot and let rest with no watering? Different plan? Is indoors for winter. Please help.

  • Pam Folkard
    Pam Folkard

    I live in Loire valley, France ,and 2 years ago was repotting outside and splitting bulbs, after I’d done this I threw old soil onto garden and the next year had a plant growing outside. been there for 2 yrs now and survived the very cold winter. Lovely surprise.

  • kelly licht
    kelly licht

    I plant mine both indoors as a house plant and I use about 7 tubers in a pot outdoors in the front of my geraniums and they are just gorgeous. at the end of the season I dig them up and the 7 turned into 100 literally and I give them away. I live in Niagara falls area I don’t think they could survive through our winters.

  • Alisa

    Hello I’ve had my oxalis outside for the summer and it has lost it’s leaves. I’m assuming that is it’s dormant phase.. would it be safe to bring indoors and have it as a houseplant? Thanks!

  • Betsy Dillard
    Betsy Dillard

    Does oxalis grown indoors need a particular PH for the soil used in the pot? Could I use coffee grounds to add if acid soil is called for?

  • Barb

    I kept my very favorite oxalis on top of dryer next to sunny window in laundry room last winter. This summer outside.Beautiful.


    Absolutely stunning outdoors , become dormant in the winter but back lively as ever in the spring , grow pretty rapid and create a show , probably left to its own devices it would take over , but who cares these are amazing and admired by everyone , and i have been giving pots to friends and family after they have asked about it and they have never seen it before ? i am in the northern UK So pretty cold winter , and summers are usually not that great , apart from 2018 x

  • Sahar

    Hi team Easy To Grow Bulbs,
    Thank you for the guidance about Oxalis triangularis. I’ve got the new bulbs now in Augustnd and I live in zone 7. I would like to know when or which season I should plant them. Is there any good/bad time to plant oxalis triangularis bulbs? Thank you!

  • JoAnn Hardy
    JoAnn Hardy

    Question – I have several indoor shamrock plants. I would like to get bulbs to start new plants from my plants. What is the best way to do this? and how can I store these bulbs for future use?

  • Marci In Illinois
    Marci In Illinois

    I have my Mother’s, which is green! I also have two purple ones! I love them! Just wondering if after they get so tall do I cut them back? They are house plants!

  • Mary Short
    Mary Short

    I have had mine 30 plus yrs love it

  • Claudia

    Is a sign of overwatering when the stems get really thin?

  • Junemarie Griffith
    Junemarie Griffith

    My husband’s grandmother actually had the green shamrock plant from Ireland & passed it down to all of us. Purple is my color so I’m so excited to know about this variety. Thank you.

  • Brian R O'Malley
    Brian R O'Malley

    Just bought my 1st plant & facing north while living in HOT Phoenix. Any tips?

  • Jeannine Macy
    Jeannine Macy

    I have several purple Oxalis triangular, they were in full bloom last summer, very healthy. I protected the plants (in pots) under our patio. They looked fine, but I noticed many brown spots on the leaves and some greens showing on the purple leaves, the stems are long and lanky. they kind of hang down. I do not know if I overwatered or underwater them. I had raised them for our Club Plant Sale April 14, but they do not look good enough. What can I do to restore their beauty.? I read somewhere to cut the leaves off, but what about the stems, and how low should I go and is it a good idea?

  • Stuart

    I live in York. UK and a customer gave me one 31 years ago. It’s still going strong even after almost dying a few times through lack of water. Last year it went six weeks without as my future daughter in law forgot to water it. Three days after giving it water I spotted new shoots and it’s regenerated to a beautiful plant again.

    Awesome plant.

  • Vanessa

    Hello. I’ve had my plants for 17 years and have propagated many giving to friends and family. They are a joy! I live in NYC and have plenty of light in my apartment. However, when the building recently changed the water tank (I believe is cedar) all my plants, including the oxalis started to get brown as if burned. I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions? I don’t know that the water is the issue because my neighbor’s plants are doing well.

  • thought bubble
    thought bubble

    I’m in southern ontario and dont think it will survive the winter so put it in a hanging basket to bring inside as a houseplant during the cold months. Let us know if you plant it outside and it survives.

    Great article thanks for the tips. Didnt know it was an heirloom plant. Kinda beautiful idea. My kids call it dragon baby plant

  • Linnea Lahlum
    Linnea Lahlum

    How are these outdoors in a garden? someone just recommend them to me when I said I was looking for a purple accent. I am in Zone 5b, Chicago area.

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